Men’s Cotton Poplin Button-up Shirt

Sew Well - Men's button-up shirt made from #moodfabrics

I sometimes wonder what my go-to uniform would be if I were challenged to only wear one silhouette (one week one uniform, anyone?!).  It’s an idea I’m having fun exploring these days, though I haven’t come up with any easy answers so far.  Yet, when it comes to my husband, I know what his uniform would be – a blue button-up shirt and slacks.  And, thanks to this lovely chambray blue cotton poplin from Mood Fabrics and a bit of my sewing time, my husband has yet another blue shirt to add to his daily rotation.

Sew Well - Men's button-up shirt made from #moodfabrics

I’ve made this pattern, vintage Butterick 4712, several times now.  Each time I’ve made it, I’ve tried to create a unique shirt through my choice of fabric:  linen and silk, plaid flannel, solid and striped shirting, and now poplin. This poplin fabric is definitely a favorite, both in color and in feel. It’s described as both ‘cobalt’ and ‘chambray blue’ in color, and I’d say if you thought about a mix between cobalt and chambray, you’d be pretty close to the true color of the fabric.  It’s pretty perfect for someone who likes blue, like my husband.  These photos make the fabric look a little more vibrant than it really is, despite any attempts on my end to enhance the colors.  It has a slightly softer hand than the shirting I used previously, and it doesn’t wrinkle as much as the linen either.  It was my first time sewing with cotton poplin, and everything went so smoothly that I now have my eye on several other Mood poplins (hello polka dots, nice to meet you vibrant purple, how do you do crazy floral?!).

Sew Well - Men's button-up shirt made from #moodfabrics

Also, each time I’ve made this button-up shirt pattern, I’ve had a slightly different experience.  The first couple of times it took me awhile to work my head around the instructions for the front button placket.  Now that I’ve gone through the process several times, I feel confident experimenting with ways to better hide the interfacing and finish the seams, and I’m very pleased with the results here.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns though.  One little hiccup came with the pocket.  My husband had asked for one pocket on the front left, which was easy enough to agree to make happen.  Since things seemed to be on the up-and-up after the positive placket experience, I decided to step up my pocket game.  After looking at a few of his ready-to-wear shirts and seeing that many of them had pockets with nice, soft, rounded corners, I set out to make a similar style pocket.  I made myself a little template, cut out my fabric, and tried to man handle the rounded corners into submission.  But, it just wasn’t working.  I even tried to see whether gathering the seam allowances using a basting stitch would help.  In the end I gave up, cut off the offending round corners, turned in the now straight edges, and called it a day.  Later I had wondered if starch could have helped.  Any tips out there for getting those neat rounded corners?

Sew Well - Men's button-up shirt made from #moodfabrics

Everything else went pretty smoothly.  I still remember how puzzled I was the first time I sewed together a collar and collar stand.  I was following Peter of Male Pattern Boldness’ Men’s Shirt Sew-Along so I was already having my hand held at the time, but I still had to sit down with the instructions and go slowly step-by-step to make sure I understood the process. Now that I’ve gone through the process several times, it’s fun to experiment, try changing up the order of the steps (inspired by Andrea of Four Square Wall’s tutorial), and trust that I’ll still get great results.

Sew Well - Men's button-up shirt made from #moodfabrics

I used the burrito method to get a nice finish to my yoke, and I used my stitch-in-the-ditch foot with my needle slightly off-center to get nice, even edge stitching.

Sew Well - Men's button-up shirt made from #moodfabrics

The sleeve plackets came together well, too.  Or, so I thought until seeing in these photos that this placket’s peak might be slightly off center.  Good thing no one’s grading this shirt for perfection!  My husband isn’t one to care about little things like that, and he certainly hasn’t said anything about the placket peak placement!

Navy buttons and a neatly turned hem complete the shirt.  Speaking of hems, that’s another spot where I’ve tried different methods to see how to best get nice, neat results around all those curves.  I’ve tried folding up a quarter inch twice; serging and then either folding up once or twice (using the serging as a guide to get a nice, even fold); and using bias binding as a hem facing.  I’m curious what other methods for hemming a shirt are out there?  What is your go-to method?

Sew Well - Men's button-up shirt made from #moodfabrics

Finally, it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve made a pattern, I’m still pretty much guaranteed to learn something new with every make.  This time around the lesson was about pre-washing cotton.  I only pre-washed this 100% cotton fabric once, and since it’s now been worn many, many times since it was first finished (see what I’m saying about his ‘uniform’ – he likes blue shirts!) and, thus, washed many, many times since that first pre-washing, it’s now noticeably smaller, particularly in the length.  It still fits, and he can easily roll up the sleeves whenever the missing length starts to bug him, so it’s not a big deal, but in the future I plan to pre-wash my 100% cotton fabrics at least three times before I cut into them.

What about you – what are your big take homes on making shirts, wearing uniforms, or pre-washing cottons?  Any good tips out there?!

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Comments


  • Peter
    September 30, 2014

    The shirt looks great. I rarely make rounded-bottom pockets for the reasons you described — they’re challenging. I’ve had better luck with heavier fabrics like wool. When you shape over a template with an iron, you might even put a bit of white glue (or glue stick) on the wrong side of your pocket seam allowance to hold the rounded edge in place.

  • Peter
    September 30, 2014

    Also, stitch a line of topstitching on the just the pocket at 1/4″. This will hold the shape. Then edgestitch the pocket — which already has the shape you want — onto the shirt.

    • Sew Well
      October 1, 2014

      Thanks Peter! You are my men’s shirt sewing guru!

  • carolyn roemer
    September 30, 2014

    I had to look twice to see the off center peak even though I read your statement before looking. Who will notice on a flying horse as my mother used to say? Also I like a little poly or nylon in my cotton. There seems to be less chance of shrinkage after many washings.

    • Sew Well
      October 1, 2014

      A good lesson to learn. It’s amazing to me that it’s taken me this long to figure it out. I guess it’s most noticeable on shirts with sleeves like this one has (my Archer did the same – two shirts shrinking is enough for me!), which could explain why I didn’t notice other things shrinking.

  • Sallie
    October 1, 2014

    This looks great!! Your husband looks very dashing in blue! I agree with Peter that a bit of glue and some basting to hold everything in place before edgestitching is the way to go for rounded pockets. But really – they’re overrated, your squared off pocket looks totally pro!

    • Sew Well
      October 1, 2014

      Thanks!! He does like his blue. And, I’m going to try out those tips next time around. At least I know I have a good fall back if round corners get me once again.

  • Lori
    October 1, 2014

    This is such a great shirt, Amy and thanks for the tip about prewashing. That makes perfect sense, I just think about my jeans, each time they are dried they seem a bit shorter. I can see why your husband likes his custom made shirts, you do fabulous work.

  • Cennetta
    October 2, 2014

    Amy, The shirt looks great. Too many blue shirts. NOT! Besides blue is a great color for your hubby.

  • Amanda S.
    October 2, 2014

    Looks great on him! I’m sure he appreciates having a handmade garment and knows all the work that goes into it.

  • Sew Busy Lizzy
    October 9, 2014

    When I used to applique I used to gather up rounded corners – often around a cardboard template like Peter suggested. Then I would spray the starch into a little container, so it turned into a liquid. Then use a paintbrush to paint the starch onto the gathers, then iron it. This made them sit very very flat!

  • Fiona
    October 12, 2014

    Ooo lovely chambray and fantastic neat job on that shirt. I’ve only made a couple of shirts and am yet to brave the rounded pocket so have no tips for you I’m afraid. Great job on those sleeve plackets too!

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    October 16, 2014

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